Inevitable Beauty

28 Mar


Someone told me recently that the wonderful poet Mary Oliver advises that each day you and I “Pay attention!”, “Be astounded!”  and “Tell about it!”  I can’t verify the attribution, but if she did advise it, then “Thank you, Mary Oliver!”


About a week ago I walked into my backyard in the early hours of morning light, gazed around to make sure everything had stayed in its proper place during the cool Arizona night, then, turning to the raised flowerbed along the north wall, heard myself gasp at the gift offered by a very ugly cactus plant.  I was astounded.  It was one of those blink-twice moments to make sure it’s real.  Let me tell you about it.


This delicate creation that overnight had popped out of a squatty, very average, run-of-the-mill cactus plant, was breathtaking.  Radiant in the morning sun.  Gleaming white tinged with soft pink around the edges.  The symmetry in the center.  One long golden arm reaching out to invite and welcome pollen gatherers.  The circular inner pool lined in peaceful green.  Petals that seemed spun of cloud and mist.  And then astonishment slowly turned into awe.  For here before me was a glorious example of the interrelatedness of life, the coming together in one moment of elements and substances that produced the tangible reality of beauty.  For a moment I was no longer admiring a lovely flower, but looking instead at the conjunction of air, and wind, and rain, and sunshine, and rich soil, and living nutrients, and molecules, and atoms, and mystery.  For about two days these quiet elements have come together to be transformed into the visible manifestation of sheer beauty.  After two days, the cactus flower will be gone.  It will dry up and droop, eventually fall off its host onto the ground, then disappear into the dirt.


But in the months to come I will be watching…paying attention, because I know that one day the flower will reappear, and I will be astounded all over again.  It is inevitable.  The same constant friends will again embrace each other.  It is their nature and their delight.  And their mysterious dance will create an astonishment and a reminder about how life works.


All things are related.  Pay attention.  Be astounded.  Tell about it.



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